Some early thoughts on Storyworlds’ three launch titles:
United States of Magic Book 1: “Grand Theft Global”
Agent Dryden thought she was developing a program that could predict terrorist attacks. Instead, United States of Magic is about her dawning awareness of magic in a world where it turns out countries aren’t amassing weapons of mass destruction, but magical artifacts. Maybe it’s because stories set during the occupation of Iraq tend to be realistic, but it sometimes feels distracting that writer Max Gadney tries to set this story in recent history. Dryden also adjusts to the news that magic is real awfully fast, which hurts her credibility — especially if you’re used to shows like Homeland where nobody trusts anyone.
The premise has legs, and Julian Parry’s art is great at visual storytelling, whether it’s using a bumper sticker to provide insight on a character or using color to get into the right mode — whether that be spy or desk job — but this series could’ve benefited from the forced pauses of monthly issues; I don’t know that the graphic novel format fits. Taylor Esposito (with assists by Mariano Benitez Chapo) does the letters and sometimes the moving back and forth between text messages and dialogue gets irritating, especially when there’s no visible phone in the scene.
Current Release Date: May 26th
FAB Book 1: “Pandora”
For being launch titles, FAB and United States of Magic have a lot in common. Marcia Clay isn’t a DIA agent, but she did serve in Iraq and, like Dryden, she’s recruited to help with some hush-hush business — in her case involving FABs (or fabrications) and the 3D printers that make them. In the areas where United States of Magic falters, though, FAB soars, whether it’s Marcia asking questions and asserting herself or the introduction of a new method of torture. It is a weird thing to compliment, but shows how much writer RAMZEE, and artist Stefano Simeone are creating their own universe — which is exactly what the name “Storyworlds” promises. RAMZEE isn’t afraid to kill his darlings, either, which is what makes the ending so palpable. Esposito’s letters are clear and crisp and, according to an advertisement at the back of the book, there’s going to be a FAB anthology sometime this fall.
Current Release Date: June 21st
Only Hope Book 1: “Fear Farm”
These days, there’s nothing more precarious than looking at the “What’s Happening” section on Twitter. Bad news always seems to travel there first and if there’s a video in the feed, it’s soon everywhere whether you want to watch to it or not. Only Hope is a graphic novel that asks the right questions — like how is this daily influx of trauma effecting people long term? — but doesn’t come at them in a fresh way. The shady corporate building where employees need clearance to get to the next level is pretty standard (if more could’ve been made out of the fact that it’s in a volcano) and not enough time is spent on Hope or her friends to make their separation distressing. Work is scare, which is why they agree to their pal Gina’s plan to get them jobs at Market, a company that specializes in removing harmful content from the internet. Depending on whether you find their conversations relatable or obnoxious, Gadney’s writing doesn’t do much to endear readers to their plight, while the vibe, as drawn by Ksenia Kudryavtseva, is corporate world meets frat party. Some of the characters are very effusive yet Esposito — once again handling letters — manages to accommodate their dialogue well.
Current Release Date: July 12th